Archive for November, 2012

Shopping in the city

November 21, 2012

Holiday gifts in Baltimore that are fun to give, receive and get

For decades suburbanites descended on the city to complete their holiday shopping. In Baltimore’s case, they likely took a streetcar to Howard and Lexington streets. A generation after Hutzler’s rang its last sale, the flow has reversed, with urbanites taking their own cars to malls in Towson, Hanover and Columbia. If, somewhere between parking lot section Z-89 and “Ma’am, the line starts over there,” you have a Frank Constanza moment, and think, “There’s got to a better way,” there is.

This sampling of city shopping options will lead you to distinctive (read: thoughtful) gifts that are as fun to give as they are to receive — and even fun to procure.

Charm City Craft Mafia’s Holiday Heap (Charles Village, Dec. 1)


Photo courtesy of Charm City Craft Mafia

Per capita, it’s, admittedly, probably more packed than the mall, but it’s hard to call this juried craft show inside an old Victorian church anything but cozy. Maybe it’s the intimacy of meeting the people who made — handmade — your gifts. Maybe it’s the homeyness of sipping hot cocoa while you shop. Maybe it’s the novelty of buying stuff never seen on TV. Maybe it’s the community of being among others who appreciate such things. Whatever it is, the annual fair is a can’t miss. If you get a little too cozy, step out on 27th Street and recharge at the food trucks.

Browse a list of vendors on Charm City Craft Mafia’s site. More than 60 artists and craftspeople will be selling clothing, accessories, beauty products, housewares, cards, prints, woodworks and more. Many accept credit cards via mobile payment systems such as Square.

WHERE: 2640 Space (St John’s Church), 2640 St. Paul St.

WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Take a coffee or hot chocolate break. As you sip, drink in the beautiful building as well. When you’re done shopping, take a food truck lunch home with you, or, if it’s nice, dine alfresco on the churchyard’s ledge.

aMuse Toys (Fells Point)

amuseCreative Commons photo by Flickr user HAMACHI!

aMuse Toys sells toys that get the young and young at heart playing with the original killer app: Our imaginations. Some are so whimsical you could say they were made by elves, and sound convincing. The 123 Baltimore counting book journeys through the city along with the numbers, visiting pink flamingos, blue crabs, and painted ladies. Non-sticky, non-gritty tactile modeling compound Bubber lets kids — and parents — just worry about creating. The Robot and Rocket Flipbook kit — well, come on, its robots and rockets and cartoons! At the shop in Southeast Baltimore’s historic Fells Point, you’ll find the types of toys worthy of Santa’s sack.

WHERE: 1623 Thames St.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Warm up with holiday spirits just up Broadway at Rye, a bar specializing in craft cocktails. Then, erase these calories, at least, from your holiday surplus with a stroll to the end of Broadway Pier. Or, if it’s the weekend, swoop up Broadway and over on Fleet to peruse the wares at The Antique Man, which is closed during the week.

Zeke’s Coffee (Hamilton)

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user jbtaylor

Packaged in brown paper bags with black and white stickers, Zeke’s’ more than 30 small-batch-roasted, bold-but-not-bombastic blends are an ode to coffee joy. Even the busiest list-making-hall-decking-cookie-baking bees will savor this time out from the tinsel. Traditional and speciality varieties, including a sustainable line, are available at Zeke’s’ shop in Hamilton, as well as several other spots around town.

WHERE: 4607 Harford Road

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: By all means, treat yourself to a cup, then head about a mile farther up Harford Road and stroll Hamilton’s Main Street area, concentrated in the 5400 and 5500 blocks, home to cafés, pubs and art galleries.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share

_farmers-market-02Photo by Steve Earley

Think of it as the jelly-of-the-month club, but fresh, non-smashed-up fruit, and vegetables. It’s the gift that keeps on giving all growing season long. A weekly share of a farmer’s harvest simplifies shopping, promotes healthy eating and encourages creativity in the kitchen. CSA members get well over a month’s worth of food starting at little over the cost of a month’s worth of Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese Extra Value Meals. Which would you rather have?

Most f
arms bundle members’ shares for them — based on what’s growing well or what they have a lot of — but some give customers the pick of their stands. Either way, recipients can expect the strawberries, corn and peaches everybody craves as well as lesser-known crops that will stretch their culinary reportoire — kholrabi, anyone?

If the price (around $300 for a half share and up to $600 for a full share) exceeds your gift-giving budget, ask the farm about gift certificates, or simply make your own. (Since many farms have buyers choose pick-up times and locations, it might be best to have the recipient buy anyway.)

WHERE: Below are three of the many regional farms with pick-up locations in Baltimore. Inquire online or find them at farmers markets. Both One Straw Farm and Real Food Farm are at the Waverly Farmers Market (Saturdays) and Calvert Farm has a stand at the downtown Baltimore Farmers Market (Sundays).

WHILE YOU’RE THERE Explore the farms websites’ and their links, or, if you’re at a market, chat with farmers themselves to learn more about local and sustainable food. Did you know many of Baltimore’s vacant lots are being reclaimed as small farms and that urban heat markedly extends the city’s growing season?

Baltimore Museum of Art Gift Shop (Charles Village)

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art

Curated as carefully as the galleries around it, the Baltimore Museum of Art’s gift shop offers an eclectic — but focused — complement of items that all do what a gift should do: Express something, and inspire the recipient to do the same. Find books, CDs, DVDs, cards, prints and posters featuring or inspired by the museum’s art as well as jewelry, clothing, creative supplies and more.

WHERE: 10 Art Museum Drive

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Explore, for free, the just-reopened contemporary wing, where street artist Gaia has two temporary murals, including one featuring residents of the nearby neighborhood of Remington.